by Namini Wijedasa
The government printer said Friday that the gazette outlining subjects and functions of the new cabinet of ministers will not be released before this week. It was sent for printing on Wednesday night but things subsequently kept getting added to it -- like a new ministry here and there -- so the department couldn’t finalise it.
Meanwhile, phones at the department of government printing rang off the hook. (This isn’t confirmed but we hear that ministers were among the most eager to find out if they were assigned any duties other than brazenly sponging off the public).
Typesetters and proofreaders kept getting fresh drafts. The department’s website was continuously jammed. An employee from the internet division said it was probably due to too many people checking whether the gazette was online yet.
But, really, this delay should surprise nobody with a smidgeon of good sense. Because if you had thought splintering a cabinet into 62 was hard, let President Mahinda Rajapaksa tell you that it’s infinitely more difficult to find actual use for the whole caboodle. (Especially when you know that any subject or function worth its weight in salt must regretfully stay in the inner circle).
Still, kudos to the Einstein that designed President Rajapaksa’s new cabinet! What a masterpiece of governance. What political skill and adroitness. What imagination, flair and creativity. Every aspect of our life is now neatly parcelled into 62 packages, each of them as essential to our well-being as loo paper is to the West. Or so we are told.
Now, I can’t speak for those cantankerous sceptics and deplorable cynics that whinge about everything this government does. I am personally grateful that Mervyn Silva has earned the ministry of public coordination and public affairs. No doubt he is the best man to coordinate the public and to manage its affairs, whatever those may be. He does have a proven record in that vague sphere.
I am also glad that we now have a separate bunch of nine ‘senior’ ministers. Some people (notably worthless UNPers) claim they are only figureheads whose appointments have no legal basis. Seems they won’t even have institutions under them -- we just have to keep them watered, fed and in good spirits.
I don’t mind. I’m chuffed to have to fork out money for the maintenance and upkeep of these distinguished political tokens -- particularly Tissa Vitharana and D.E.W. Gunasekara who prostituted their Leftist principles to help pass the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.
I am happy that Mervyn will coordinate the public and that W.D.J. Seneviratne will administer the public. I’m delighted that Piyasena Gamage will deal with something called national assets, the abuse of which during election campaigns has proved exceedingly advantageous to the ruling alliance. In the meantime, Dayasritha Tissera is in charge of state assets, which is no doubt distinct in some way from national assets.
I’m satisfied that Athauda Seneviratne will sort out our rural affairs while A.H.M. Fowzie will ensure that our urban affairs are in order. In the meantime, Armugam Thondaman will look after rural community development which obviously does not fall into the category of rural affairs that Seneviratne is managing. Because that’s rural community development and this is rural affairs. Get it?
The president is the minister of finance but he has fortunately deployed Sarath Amunugama to tackle international monetary cooperation. The president is also minister of ports and aviation but Priyankara Jayaratna is minister of civil aviation. (Any fool can tell the difference).
While Tissa Vitharana will be senior minister for scientific affairs, Pavithra Wanniarachchi will look after technology and research. Kumara Welgama, I’m pleased to observe, is still transport minister while C.B. Ratanayake will sort out private transport services.
Vasudeva Nanayakkara also sang for his supper by voting for the 18th Amendment and has been rewarded for it with the national languages and social integration portfolio. It is a commendable appointment that offers him the opportunity to now perfect the art of duping people in all tongues. He may have to share social integration with Milroy Fernando, who is state minister for social welfare, and with Felix Perera who is minister for social services. All the better for society, I say.
Mahinda Samarasinghe will support the plantations sector while Jagath Pushpakumara will ensure that state plantations are in order. And the list goes on. We delightfully also have 34 deputy ministers to guarantee that nothing goes awry as Sri Lanka hurtles towards the goal of becoming Asia’s miracle. That is in the long term. The immediate miracle would be to figure out who is doing what while staying sane.
Meanwhile, let us dig deep into our pockets and take out as much money as possible to ensure that our large and benevolent cabinet wants for nothing. We must generously foot their rent payments for homes and offices, emoluments for numerous personal staff and advisors, allowances, education expenses for their children, vehicles and fuel, security and backup, stationery, sustenance, foreign travel, utility bills, telephone bills and absolutely everything else that we know nothing about.
These 93 men and three women are going to make us Asia’s miracle… one way or the other. It’s the least we can do for them.